Photo Credit: Justin McLeod
By Sarah Emily Gilbert
December was a boozy month for the town of Hopewell, New Jersey. It marked the grand opening of two new breweries: Troon Brewing on the property of Double Brook Farm (130 Hopewell Rocky Hill Road) and The Referend Bier Blendery located on 1595 Reed Road. You might think this could lead to a “Battle of the Brews,” but in reality, it’s a welcomed coincidence according to James Priest, owner and founder of The Referend.
“Whenever you’re at either place, everyone is talking about the other one too,” he explains. “It’s great; we’re doing two considerably different beer styles, and people are really excited about both. On Untappd [an app where users can check-in to breweries and share their experiences], we’re the two highest rated breweries in New Jersey right now, so we’re trying to keep that going.”
The Referend isn’t just different from Troon, but the vast majority of breweries in the United States. This is due impart to the fact that the startup isn’t actually a brewery but a “bier blendery.” Priest explains that he doesn’t have a brewhouse of his own, which is where the “brewing” technically occurs. Instead, he travels to other breweries where he creates a specifically engineered wort, which is basically unfermented beer; pumps the boiling wort into a mobile coolship, or an open-top vessel in which wort cools; and brings the still non-alcoholic wort back to the blendery to spontaneously ferment in oak barrels.
The intricate art of spontaneous fermentation is the traditional brewing process for the most idiosyncratic type of beer you’ll taste: lambic. A Belgian specialty that dates back to the Roman Empire, lambic-style beers are relatively rare stateside. A handful of independent American breweries produce spontaneously fermented beer, but The Referend is the only brewery in the country that never adds cultured yeast to their beer. In short, Priest is likely “blending” up the most authentic lambic beer in the nation.
Unlike most beers that are fermented in sterile tanks with carefully selected strains of yeast engineered in a laboratory, Priest’s are left in his coolships overnight where wild yeasts and microbes in the air can enter the brew. The average brewer tries to prevent natural microbes from taking residence in their beer to avoid unpredictable flavors. Priest, on the other hand, embraces the “wildness” that is integral to lambics.
“It is not at all hard to ferment beer spontaneously,” says Priest. “What is difficult is completely ceding control to nature, which these beers require of you immediately. In turn, nature rewards you for trusting in its own process, on its own timeline. It seems to be a more philosophical brewing method than most.”
Mother Nature is indeed on her own timeline when it comes to the fermentation process. Once Priest transfers the wort to aged oak barrels to spontaneously ferment, they take anywhere between four months and four years to mature.
“I let the beer tell us when its ready to be enjoyed,” says the ever-patient Priest. “It’s consistently slower than one would hope, but I’m committed to its autonomy.”
There are some lambic-style beers that ease the waiting process. Priest explains that Jung, which is German for young, is served intentionally prematurely at months old to highlight the early developing complexities in the beer’s adolescence.
The aging process of lambic beer is similar to that of wine – and in some ways, so is the taste. Although all the beer produced at The Referend falls under the category of sour beer, Priest likens the taste to a dry wine, champagne, or cider. Others describe the flavor as earthy, hay-like, or leathery. There’s no debating that lambics have an impactful taste, even Priest had to ease-into the old-world beer.
“One of the earliest ones I remember having is Cantillon Gueuze, which is sort of held up as a benchmark for the lambic-style,” says Priest. “I found it slightly off-putting and couldn’t quite pick some of the associations, but I wanted to kind of delve into what else was going on there. Even when I found it, I had the desire to acquire the taste. In a matter of beers, I was legitimately enjoying them not just as an exploration.”
“Some lambics are very approachable for everyone and aren’t that much of an acquired taste,” he continues. “Other lambics certainly can be if you start getting any of the strong, funkier aromas and flavors. In that case, it can take a few times and it did for me.”
With the increasing popularity of sour beers, there’s perhaps no better time for Priest to introduce his brews to the public. The Referend’s grand opening brought tons of thirsty Hopewellians to the previous site of Pennington Athletic Club (now Pennington Ewing Athletic Center) to taste the unconventional beer. The local support is reciprocating by Priest. A Chicago-native, he’s gone full-Jersey at The Referend. His “blends” have featured “Jersey Fresh” peaches, nectarines, grapes, hops, spelt, and grain. “There’s so much in the area,” says Priest, “that it’s thankfully very easy to seek out farmers for whatever we’re looking for and drag it down to The Referend.”
You have to go to the source to try one of Priest’s lambics. The Referend’s beer isn’t sold for off-site consumption, and due to the delicate nature of certain lambics, kegging isn’t advisable. Priest has completed one round of bottling, but they most likely won’t be ready for consumption until springtime. In true lambic style, it takes many months for the beer to carbonate or re-ferment in the bottle. Luckily, you don’t have to wait long to taste some of Priest’s other creations. The Referend’s Tasting Room is open from 2 to 8 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of each month, making the next tasting January 21, followed by February 4. If you plan on stopping by, you mine as well make it a beer tour. The Blendery is merely two miles away from River Horse Brewing Company in Ewing and eight miles from Troon Brewing in Pennington. Now that’s the way to start the weekend. Cheers!
Hydra, 2016. 18″x24″
Morristown-based artist exhibiting at Small World Coffee in Princeton, NJ
Artist Josh Rockland is displaying his work at Small World Coffee on 254 Nassau Street through out the month of January. On his website, joshrockland.com, he writes: “My paintings have a personal, narrative quality that combines seemingly unrelated objects in an aesthetic and accessible way.” Rockland is originally from Princeton and currently resides in Morristown. more
Photos courtesy of Cranford Millburn Camera Club
Send us your best shots of NJ by January 20, 2017 for the chance to be in the next issue of Urban Agenda Magazine!
By Sarah Emily Gilbert
You might have photographed your favorite Jersey diner. Perhaps you’ve snapped a picture of a secret trail in the Garden State. Maybe, you’ve taken an image of a historical location in NJ, or better yet, a historic moment in your life. If you’ve shot a picture of New Jersey that represents your personal vision of the state, we want to see it! more
Photo Courtesy of @marrden
Yesterday was the 2016 winter solstice, and though it marked the dark and the cold, it also began the countdown to the summer solstice on June 21, 2017!
… So maybe we’re rushing things, but we still can appreciate the frozen wonderland that winter brings. To kick-off winter 2016, we compiled “chillingly” beautiful Instagrams of Princeton.
SUMMER THEATER: French Woods is an individual choice performing arts summer camp for children from 7 to 17 years old in Hancock, NY. They offer programs in theater, dance, music, circus, magic, rock and roll, visual arts, film and video, sports, tennis, fitness, water sports, skate board, horseback riding and more. Younger campers have more guidance and supervision, while older campers are able to take on some responsibility and have a chance to work in the areas of their interest. French Woods is just one of the many sleep away camps that will be represented at the NJ Camp Fairs across NJ.
You might not think that the dead of winter is the perfect time to find a summer camp for your child, but indeed it is. NJ Camp Fairs will be hosting a series of events this January 2017 where parents will have the opportunity to meet camp directors from exceptional day and sleepaway camps from around the country. more
Arts Council of Princeton’s Executive Director Jeff Nathanson with artist Paul Henry Ramirez
Photography by Erica Cardenas
Dining by Design, the Arts Council of Princeton’s signature annual fall gala, was held at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton Township on Saturday, November 12. This year’s theme, Eye Candy, was inspired by the art exhibit Rattle by Paul Henry Ramirez on view in Grounds for Sculpture’s West Gallery. The evening featured cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, live modern dance, Party Boards, a multi-course dinner catered by STARR Events, and an exciting live auction. The choreography and direction of the dancers was the work of Dawn Cargiulo Berman, director of The Pennington Studio for Dance and the Creative Arts. Berman engaged dancers from the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company and Pilobolus Dance Theater to be a part of the evening. The event proved to be a major success, raising funds for the Arts Council of Princeton’s many community programs including their scholarship fund, which benefits local students.
One-night-only Italian truffle dinner taking place at elements Princeton on Sunday, 11/13
On November 13, for one night only, elements will be open on a Sunday evening to tantalize your taste buds with an exclusive six-course Truffle tasting dinner with Italian wine pairings. Course highlights include fresh fluke with olive oil and cider vinegar, duck bolognese over tagliatelle and 48-hour brisket served over rice and mushrooms. more
Still known to many in Princeton as the “old Town Topics building,” the imposing 19th-century brick edifice at 4 Mercer Street was restored by its owner, Princeton University, in 2013 and will see new use as apartments for faculty and staff on the second and third floors and office space on the first floor.
Princeton has a rich history of moving houses, churches and other architectural landmarks
By Ilene Dube
The year was 1868. A few heads must have turned when the house with colossal columns, reminiscent of a Greek temple, arrived by barge in Princeton Basin. From there it traveled up Alexander before settling into an orchard on Mercer Street. The owner, the Rev. George Sheldon, had inherited his family’s Northampton, Mass., home, and when a builder gave the thumbs up to moving it more than 200 miles, the 1830s wooden structure was disassembled, freighted through Connecticut to New York City, then shipped up the Raritan and barged along the D&R Canal. more
Rendered view from Philadelphia looking northeast onto Liberty Property Trust’s mixed-use urban development on the Camden waterfront. This masterplan scheme will include high-performance office buildings, a prominent flag hotel, residential units with an affordable housing component, pedestrian friendly streets, and newly envisioned open spaces.
By Anne Levin
Camden was still lively by the time my mother gave up her job in the early 1950’s. But the good times were not to last. By 1970, the city had begun its slow decline. The relocation to the suburbs of some industries and closing of others resulted in decades of crime, urban blight, and corruption. It all culminated in Camden earning the distinction, in 2012, of having the highest crime rate in the United States. more
THE ROAD TAKEN: Len Graham (pictured left) and Brían Ó hAirt (right), two award-winning musicians and proponents of Irish traditional arts, will present a performance entitled “The Road Taken: Songs, Music and Dance from the Irish Tradition” on Friday, October 14 at 4:30 p.m. in Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall on the Princeton University campus. Photo Courtesy: Brían Ó hAirt
Len Graham and Brían Ó hAirt, two award-winning musicians and proponents of Irish traditional arts, will present a performance entitled “The Road Taken: Songs, Music and Dance from the Irish Tradition” on Friday, October 14 at 4:30 p.m. in Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall on the Princeton University campus. Part of the 2016-17 Fund for Irish Studies series at Princeton University, the event is free and open to the public. Taplin Auditorium is a different location than where Irish Studies Series events are usually held. more
By Ellen Gilbert
“There is always a crisis.” – Andrew Delbanco in College: What It Was, Is, And Should Be
he cover story on a recent issue of Consumer Reports went straight to the point: “I kind of ruined my life by going to college,” it quoted a heavily indebted recent graduate. Her current balance due is $152,000, and she’s definitely not alone: according to recent reports some 42 million people owe $1.3 trillion in student debt. more
Whether you’re a zombie baby or a zombie grandpa, you’re wanted this weekend for Asbury Park’s annual Zombie Walk.
By Sarah Emily Gilbert
Warning: The 8th Annual Asbury Park Zombie Walk is this Saturday, October 1. I say warning, not because the zombies are dangerous. In fact, they’re full of ghoul-gusto and are quite friendly. I say it because last year, I neglected to remember the date of the walk and ended up on a dinner date in Asbury amongst the living dead. However, if you’re feeling corpse-like, get your fake blood ready for this weekend. more
Photo Credit: www.shakespeareglobe.com
Friday, September 30
9:45 a.m.: Job Seekers Session at Princeton Public Library presents “Money Saving Strategies during a Career Transition – Health Insurance, Taxes, Etc.” with Personal Financial Strategist Bill LaChance. Free.
Saturday, October 1
8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.: NAMI Harvest of Hope Annual Wellness Conference at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville. Kevin Hines will deliver the keynote address entitled, “Cracked Not Broken.” Hines is a mental health advocate, award-winning global speaker, bestselling author and documentary filmmaker who tells audiences around the world about his unlikely survival after jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Register online at www.namimercer.org. For more information, call 609-799-8994, ext. 10. more
The on-demand fabric producer now offers DIY home décor products through Roostery.com
By Sarah Emily Gilbert
“But I can see it in my head!”
It’s the line we use when that interior design project, outfit selection, or decorating effort doesn’t lead to the vision in mind. We can think up endless prints, colors, and patterns for our projects, but the problem occurs when we can’t find exactly what we imagine. Spoonflower understands that retail stores aren’t always as well stocked as our brains. more